“Common Core” Public Education vs. Critical Thinking

by | Mar 27, 2015

The very name “Common Core” is collectivist (i.e. socialist, communistic) in its orientation. It’s not a conspiracy; it’s deliberate. The bureaucratic intellectuals in Washington DC and elsewhere think this is a good thing.

Lily Tang Williams, a mother of three, testified before the Colorado State Board of Education that Common Core [the national educational curriculum for public schools) was similar to the education she received growing up in Mao’s Communist China.

“Common Core, in my eyes, is the same as the Communist core I once saw in China,” Williams said. “I grew up under Mao’s regime and we had the Communist-dominated education — nationalized testing, nationalized curriculum, and nationalized indoctrination.”

In a post at FreedomWorks, Williams wrote about her experience with the Chinese education system:

“Our teachers had to comply with all the curriculum and testing requirements, or lose their jobs forever. Parents had no choice at all when it came to what we learned in school. The government used the Household Registration and Personnel File system to keep track of its citizens from birth to death.”

This is what happens when you nationalize education. Public schools in the United States really started to go down when the federal Department of Education was created, in the late 1970s. This was the culmination of setting a one-size-fits-all policy for all schools, established by those (arguably) least qualified to do so: ivory tower intellectual wonks with political agendas.

Education is a field in need of objective principles, just as with any other field. But even if everyone agreed on what those principles should be, there would be hundreds if not thousands of different, unique and individualized ways to apply those principles.

This is because, in the end, education is an individual process. Minds do not think collectively. Whenever an adult or a child thinks, he or she does so alone. Thinking is the one absolutely solitary act we all do. Education is a long-range process in childhood and young adulthood fostering the skill of thinking and providing specific techniques. Thinking merged with indoctrination — imposing any kind of agenda from authority — is not education; it’s schooling.

The idea of forming a committee of people in a central location and coming up with a “Common Core” of anything to be imposed on millions of individual children nationwide is an unrealistic absurdity. The idea of forming a national department of education to decide how and what all children will learn — by the politicized standards of the government, no less — is an idea that makes about as much sense as the Communism that China, Russia and other nations ended up fleeing in droves.

This Chinese woman in Colorado makes some insightful points from a unique perspective. She has seen Communism up close and personal in her home country. Now she’s seeing the same thing in, of all places, the land of the free and the home of the brave, the United States. As she astutely observes, it’s no prettier or effective in America than it was or is in China or Russia.

“I came to this country for freedom and I cannot believe this is happening all over again in this country,” she said in the meeting. “I don’t know what happened to  America, the Shining City on the Hill for freedom.”

She said Americans should not compare their children (or their kids’ test scores) to those being educated under the Chinese system.

“I am telling you, Chinese children are not trained to be independent thinkers,” said Williams. “They are trained to be massive skilled workers for corporations. And they have no idea what happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989 where government ordered soldiers to shoot its own 1,000 students.” [reported by pjmedia.com 11/30/14]

This last quote is what really got my attention. Williams names the precise nature of the difference between an authoritarian approach to education,  and an approach based on reason, thinking and freedom: independence.

A privately run school — whether funded by profits or simply the desire of teachers to impart knowledge and skills to children — has no political agenda. Whether it’s to make a profit or to inspire authentic learning, or both, politics would never interfere with the process, at least not for long. The essential difference is that private schools can go out of business, and if they don’t deliver the promised service to students/parents, they most certainly will.

But in federalized public schools of America today, all teachers, principals and school administrators are obliged to follow the command-and-control doctrine of the central authorities in Washington D.C. How is this any different from Communism, in principle or in practice?

A lot of debates about Common Core get sidetracked by issues such as gay marriage or Barack Obama. These are valid issues to consider. However, they don’t address the root of the problem. The root of the problem is that so long as government controls what students learn, these schools will never graduate individuals with independent and critical, objective thought. Government doesn’t exist to do that. Government exists to impose, control and mandate. That’s actually a good thing, when you’re trying to restrain or punish killers, thieves or violators of property rights and contracts. But when it comes to learning, militaristic obedience and coercion are just the opposite of what’s required.

Thankfully, America has been, and in some measure remains, a society where people are free to pursue other lines of thought and education on their own, beyond what the state dishes up for them at mediocre institutions of indoctrination known as public schools. That’s what has been saving us up to now. But for how long is anybody’s guess.

The very name “Common Core” is collectivist (i.e. socialist, communistic) in its orientation. It’s not a conspiracy; it’s deliberate. The bureaucratic intellectuals in Washington DC and elsewhere think this is a good thing.  They get to implement it with no prospect of going out of business or losing their funds. In fact, unlike other enterprises (even many within government, such as the space program or the military), the worse they perform, the more money and monopolistic power they will get; still more mediocrity and failure, and still more billions thrown at the problem, seemingly into infinity.

The phrase “Common Core” implies that there is one way to learn, and one set of ideas and attitudes which will be imparted to students throughout the nation. This may be fine from the point-of-view of a Hitlerite or a Stalinist, twenty-first century style. As I indicated, it’s not education — it’s schooling.

Independent thinkers. Independent, critical and objective, intelligent thinkers. That should be the goal of every moment spent in a school, or in any other intellectual or academic endeavor of any kind. If you actually believe that the federal government is either capable of, or willing, to handle such a task with integrity, then you’re probably one of the few who actually believe that education as we know it is as leading edge as our technology.

Nationalized, government-run education (especially at the federal level) was always a bad idea in theory. That’s why it’s working out to be such an expensive and always disappointing disaster, in practice.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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